Tag Archives: Galway

Washington state bound!

27 Dec

By the time most of you read this, I will be heading west on a flight to Washington state. The roommate I had while studying in Ireland this past summer, Alex, lives there, and I am so excited to be able to spend the next 9 days with her. It’ll be the first time we’ve seen each other since Ireland, so this is an anxiously awaited reunion for sure. Though we won’t be in Ireland, I’ve heard Washington state has very similar scenery and weather, and I think that’s as close as one can hope to get without actually going to Ireland.

Since I will be posting tons of pictures while I’m in Washington state, I thought I’d post a few pictures of Alex and I from Ireland. Though we won’t be in the incredible city of Galway together, I am excited to experience Alex’s home state and get to know her family and friends. Though I have been to Washington state once before, I was only about 8 or 9 years old, so I don’t remember much. Therefore, it will be like I’m going there for the very first time, which is always exciting! 🙂

In Galway, Ireland.

In Galway, Ireland.

 

At Bunratty Castle.

At Bunratty Castle.

At the Roisin Dubh in Galway.

At the Roisin Dubh in Galway.

Stay tuned for pictures and bits and pieces of my adventures in Washington over the next 9 days! 🙂

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When in Ireland, find home in the most unlikely places.

17 Jul

Twice in the past week I have heard two different Irish cover bands play “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Other than “Wagon Wheel” being one of my favorite songs in general, it’s also a song that speaks of North Carolina, my home state. It’s just so weird to think that twice in one week I’ve heard a song that instantly has me thinking of North Carolina, Asheville, the mountains, bluegrass music, and the place that I feel most connected to. I’ve realized that even when I’m in Ireland, I can still receive the strong pull of home.

There are mountains here in Ireland, but they are nothing like the Blue Ridge Mountains that I call home. Every so often I find myself searching for the blue hue that holds so much security and comfort inside me, only to slowly realize that the specific color that holds so much emotion for me cannot be found in the mountains here. At the same time, however, I think if the Ireland landscape was more like the landscape that I’m used to at home then it would make it that much harder for me to leave next week.

It’ll be hard to say goodbye to a place that I feel has taken root so quickly in my soul. Before coming to Ireland, I was a bit hesitant. I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I had no idea what to expect, other than the fact that I was looking forward to seeing the green beauty that I had poured over during all the times that I watched P.S. I Love You. No words can describe how amazing it has been to realize that home isn’t always one specific place. When I come to think of it, I’ve found home in multiple places.

My first home was in a small town in South Carolina. It was where I grew up, and even though it has now become a place that doesn’t hold very much meaning for me, it will always be the place where I first learned about life. I think of riding my Barbie Jeep, my gocart, and my four-wheeler. I think of making mud pies in my Barbie kitchen. I think of my childhood friends…and the friends that ended up not being very friendly towards me. I think of finding my love of theatre, which is also when I realized that it was possible to have another family outside of my immediate family that was there to love and support me just as much. I think of growing up, of the days that I lost myself in books because I needed a way to escape the days when the pain was too much. I think of the nights when I made my own little space in the bottom of my closet that was equipped with a light, blankets, a pillow, a book, and a pencil and paper that I used in order to write away what I was feeling. I found security sitting in my closet…with the realization that the harsh world lay just outside. I found out what it meant to dream.

My second home was Salem Academy, an all-girls’ boarding school in North Carolina. Though I didn’t consider it my home until my senior year there, by my senior year I didn’t want to leave. It took a year to find my own place, but once I did, I knew that I’d never be the same. I found a part of me…a part of me I hadn’t really embraced before. I found my true self…or at least the beginning of my true self. I wouldn’t have been able to embark on the journey of figuring out who I truly was were it not for my best friend Skidmore. I met her during my junior year at Salem, and she was the first friend that I discussed my entire life with, the good and the bad. Skidmore was the first person I completely opened up to, and having someone who reacted so positively to all that I knew I needed to say was also something that was necessary. Without Skidmore’s love and non-judgemental acceptance, I wouldn’t have been able to start to figure out who I was…or what the meaning of home really was.

My third home is, as a whole, North Carolina….but more specifically…the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville. I’ve always been a mountain girl, but I’ve never been able to say that I have had the chance to live among a landscape that I love….until last August. And being in Asheville makes home feel even more real to me because I’m in such an artsy city…while also knowing that it is a mere 5 minute drive to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway…or the place that makes me feel completely alive. Writing has done the same thing…given me that feeling of being truly alive. Therefore, being able to write among the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains…it’s unreal, and yet, it’s what I’ve been doing.

It’s hard to imagine that Ireland has, in a way, become another home for me. And yet, I’m not all that surprised. I can’t think of one person that I know who has come to Ireland and not fallen in love with its beauty. But it’s more than just the beauty. It’s the people…it’s the quaint little village towns and the college cities…it’s the pubs and the pub atmosphere (which, I’m surprised to report, have held more character and comfort than I ever imagined), and it’s the music. I’m a true music lover, and I listen to music every chance I can get. Here in Galway, live music can be found all over the city on every night of the week. I love that opportunity. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about being in Galway. It’s not just live music every night though…it’s free live music. For a true music lover like me, it can’t get much better than free good live music every night!

So even though I’ll be leaving a home next week, I’ll also being going home to a place that I love more than anything in the entire world. Despite the fact that I’m leaving, I know I’ll be back. A place can’t take hold in my soul so quickly and not be a place that I don’t plan on returning. I don’t know when, or under what circumstances, but I know that I’ll be back. I can feel it. After all, there’s only so long that you can stay away from home, even when, sometimes, home has the ability to be so many different places all at once.

When in Ireland, don’t let the joy get knocked out of you.

5 Jul

I just got out of my Literature and Film class in which Mary O’Malley, one of Ireland’s leading poets, came to speak. She read some of her work and then asked if there were any aspiring writers in the room. I shyly raised my hand, along with three other people.

She then went around the room and asked each of the aspiring writers what they prefer to write. When she came to me, I said that I’m working on a memoir and memoir-related articles, since that has been my recent focus. Her first question, “How old are you?” is one I get a lot in reference to the fact that I’m writing a memoir. However, when I said “19” she was surprised, but didn’t make any negative remark. She just said, “Good girl,” and all I could do was smile. She then asked what the memoir would be focused on, and I just said my childhood. Her next question caught me off guard. She asked, “When do you think that ended?” (referring to my childhood). I was stunned. I couldn’t answer, much less put together any coherent sentence. She then told me that she didn’t think she knew when her childhood ended either. However, our conversation, though very short, has kicked me out of my writing rut that I’ve been moaning and groaning about for weeks. Her final piece of advice to the aspiring writers was this: “Don’t let the joy get knocked out of you,” and I think that’s what really kicked me into writing gear. It’s something that I sometimes forget: the joy. The pure, simple, and yet strong joy that I get from just writing how I feel. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling. It’s the reason I began writing in the first place….because it was my refuge, my security, the happiness that overpowered the pain.

I think as writers we all need a kick in the pants sometimes, and I got mine today. I’ve opened the Word document of my memoir, and for the first time in weeks, I’m not at a loss for words. They’re there, clear as day, waiting to be written, waiting to come alive on the page as only words can do.

When in Ireland, go see the NUI Galway campus.

4 Jul

I can’t remember if I’ve shared this photo with all of you already, but here’s a picture of the quad of my campus. It’s so gorgeous, and I absolutely love the ivy everywhere. When I first came on campus, my first response, “I’m taking summer classes in a castle!” Well, it’s not quite a castle, but I love the stone and the castle-y look that the buildings have.

Pretty, right? I love it!

When in Ireland, write through the uncertainty.

2 Jul

I have yet to sit down and write since I’ve been in Ireland (not counting this blog). I really do hate to admit that, even though I do have a pretty solid excuse of: I’m in Ireland. However, over the past few days, that hasn’t really felt like a reasonable excuse, partly because there have been snippets of days that I’ve just sat at my computer wondering what to say.

Attempting to work on my memoir while I’m here feels out of place and very foreign. And yet, at the same time, I hear that voice in the back of my head asking why it seems like such an impossibility. Truthfully, I can’t see why it is. Maybe it’s connected to the fact that I’m doing something huge right now and I want to enjoy every minute of it. Though I have no doubt that that may be part of it, I also know that my strong need to write has increased since coming to Ireland. I don’t know if it’s the beauty, being in a completely different country, or just being surrounded by so many different people. However, either way….I feel it. I feel the wheel’s turning in the way that only a writer’s mind can work, and I’m done ignoring it.

A few years ago, if someone would have told me that I’d be sitting outside of an Ireland university typing a blog post, I probably would have just smiled nervously and pushed it out of my mind. Come to think of it though, not much has changed…except for the fact that I am now in fact here, sitting outside of an Ireland university typing a blog post. The thing is, I’m still scared. I love it. It’s exciting and new and wonderful, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared. Not of anything in particular really. Just the uncertainty. The uncertainty of not really knowing what the next few weeks hold, all the while realizing that I’ve just got to grab it by the hand and run like hell with it. I don’t really have much of a choice at this point.

Uncertainty can be truly terrifying. Though I know I’m not to the point of “terrified,” this trip has tested my limits in ways I’ve never been tested before. Though I am with a group of students, I knew no one before coming over here…meaning that no one knew anything about me until they saw me on day one. There’s something wonderful as well as scary about that…having people around me who don’t know my history, my past, what I struggle with. Though I have only mentioned my CP to 2 people so far (my roommate and a guy in my group who asked last night), sometimes I have the urge to scream it from the rooftops while other times I’d rather just sit in silence. It’s hard to not say anything when I’m sure people are wondering why I’m lagging behind the group a bit or why I’m not staying in the same housing as the rest of the students in my group. Yes, a huge part of me is screaming, “It doesn’t matter!!!” but another part of me is wondering, “Would it put me at ease if I didn’t constantly have the worry about my group leaving me behind?”

My program directors know my situation, and they have been sure to include me in everything and make sure I’m an integral part of the group, which is good. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sit and worry about the group leaving me behind. Thankfully, it’s not a new worry, though at this point I don’t know if that would be considered good or bad. However, it is something that I’ve had to consider every time I’m put in a situation where a group of students is going somewhere, especially when it’s a kind of walking tour. Oh, walking tours, they are the bane of my existence. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but they still suck. So, that being said, the worry is not a new kind of worry, but I guess it’s at a new level, especially considering the fact that I’m in a new country with people who I don’t exactly know exceptionally well.

Realizing that this is something that no one else in my group is struggling with is hard, but it’s not a realization that is new to me. However, sometimes it would be nice if my worry was more “normal,” like worrying about cultural differences or staying in touch with people. Even though those worries have been on my mind, my mind is primarily reeling with the thoughts of trying to enjoy Ireland as much as I can without overexerting myself and trying to step out of my comfort zone to the point of where it gives me a thrill of excitement but not to the point of being utterly terrified.

So yes, the writing…the words…they were there. I guess I just need to sit down and sort through them, even if they don’t exactly flow. But you know, sometimes writers need disorder and chaos and confusion, and above all, uncertainty, to get back on track again…to feel somewhat in control again.

When in Ireland, go to McDermott’s Pub in Doolin.

1 Jul

When my mom and I were traveling around Ireland before my study abroad program began in Galway, we stopped in Doolin because we heard that it had some great live music, and boy did we find it. There were only 3 pubs in Doolin, so we were able to go into all of them to see which had the best atmosphere and music. The winner was McDermott’s Pub, which was packed with people by the time my mom and I got there and had some great live music.

I particularly liked the music at McDermott’s because the musicians were younger. There were 2 guys and a girl, and the girl was definitely my favorite. We later learned that she was a well-known fiddle player and could play a huge variety of instruments. Her talent was pretty obvious, and it was great to hear her play. Sadly though, I don’t remember her name or I’d share it with all of you.

Anyway, if any of you ever get the chance to go to Ireland, make the trek to Doolin for McDermott’s Pub. You won’t regret it! 🙂

 

When in Ireland, get lost in the words of W.B. Yeats.

30 Jun

I’m taking an Irish Literature and Film course at the National University of Ireland in Galway this summer, and for the first 2 class periods, we have focused on the poetry of William Butler Yeats. I’ve read Yeats’ poetry before, but there is something really special about reading poetry by someone who wrote his poetry in the country that you’re currently studying in. Or, in another sense, reading poetry in the country where it can be best interpreted.

According to the notes I took in class, William Butler Yeats was a late romantic poet who absorbed the impact of Gaelic folklore as subject matter for his poetry. He was interested in old legends, and therefore he took old folklore and tried to make it relevent. He also felt that the modern world had become culturally impoverished, so he strived to renew the modern world by showing the capacity of the imagination. Yeats was impacted by fairy stories because they had deep connections for him to the human imagination.

One of my favorite poems that we read by Yeats was “Song of Wandering Aengus.” In this poem, Yeats uses the idea of the supernatural as a symbol for art. Also, the poem discusses what it means to be a poet, while also emphasizing that you must follow your vision, no matter where it leads you. Here is the poem (from http://wanderingminstrels.blogspot.ie):

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.